Here We Go Again

As the race for the Republican nomination for Attorney General enters the home stretch, I have been increasingly impressed not just with the quality of the candidates, but also with the level of respect each of the candidates has shown for their opponents. Every Virginia Republican must understand by now the importance of emerging from our convention on June 1 as a united front. Unfortunately, some of the things I am reading about this race seem designed to drive a wedge further into our Party.

Specifically, I was disappointed to read a post from my friend, Mason Conservative, responding to Jerry Kilgore’s endorsement of John Brownlee earlier this week. In it, he rails against “Old Virginia” and somehow manages to connect John Brownlee with Harry Byrd. Not only are some of the arguments presented fallacious, I believe they are potentially destructive to our Party and must be responded to.

First let me caveat this by saying that I have the utmost respect for Chris and I am certain his concerns are sincere. However, I strongly disagree with his view of John Brownlee and frankly I have to wonder how much he has actually talked to the man. Further, I also have great respect for Sen. Cuccinelli. As I personally told him yesterday at the YRFV Convention, if he is the nominee he will have my 100% support. However, I feel that the arguments put forth in the above-mentioned post contain several fallacies that beg refutation.

First and foremost is the idea that Jerry Kilgore’s endorsement is worthless because he lost the 2005 Gubernatorial election. In order to dispel that notion, let me throw out a couple of numbers. 1,107,068 and 60.01% v. 970,886 and 49.96%. Those are the number of votes and percentages of the vote that Jerry Kilgore and Bob McDonnell each received for Attorney General, according to the State Board of Elections. In 2001, AG candidate Jerry Kilgore was the leading vote-getter out of six candidates in all three statewide races!

The point is, if we are talking about what it takes to be Attorney General, Jerry Kilgore knows what he’s talking about on that subject. Let me also point out that in 2001, Jerry Kilgore won 73,025 votes (43%) in the 8th Congressional District and 83,018 (51%) in the 11th. Compare that to McDonnell’s 2005 numbers of 52,875 (31%) in the 8th and 87,160 (47%) in the 11th and take population growth into consideration and you won’t see someone who “thinks Republicans can win without Northern Virginia.” In fact, I daresay that Kilgore might know better than most how important Northern Virginia is in elections.

In addition, the criticism of Kilgore’s endorsement seems to be premised on the idea that only someone from Northern Virginia can win votes in Northern Virginia. This is an argument I have heard over and over and it is frankly garbage. In fact, it is just as much of a fallacy as saying someone from Fairfax can’t win votes in the 6th and 9th Congressional Districts.

By and large people do not vote on geography, they vote on issues and personalities. People will vote for the candidate that they feel understands the problems they are facing, offers solutions to those problems and is a person they feel they can trust. Voters don’t go around saying “I like everything that guy says but he’s from [Fairfax/Roanoke/etc. ] County, so I’m going to vote for the other guy.” The question we have to ask ourselves is what issues are going to matter most in the Attorney General’s race and which candidate is best qualified to address those issues. For a variety of reasons, I believe that person is John Brownlee, but that is a post for another time.

The other fallacy at work here is represented with this statement:

John Brownlee is simply an extension of Old Virginia, the same rural conservatism that has drowned this party. There is no place for Northern Virginia in Old Virginia, we are just a bunch of liberals up here anyways.

Driving this kind of wedge into our Party is exactly what folks in the rest of the state get accused of doing all the time. Chris complains about NOVA being ignored and insulted, but apparently fails to realize that respect, like a lot of other things, is a two-way street.

Does NOVA matter? Yes. Is NOVA all that matters? No. The idea that, since John Brownlee most recently lived in Roanoke, he can’t possibly understand Northern Virginia or appeal to voters in that region is an absurd one with no foundation. In fact, not only did John Brownlee spend some time growing up in Northern Virginia, he also lived there when he worked as Assistant US Attorney in Washington, DC. Quite simply, a candidate’s ability to talk to the voters in Northern Virginia will rely much more on his credibility and experience than on his Zip Code.

Finally, the criticism of Kilgore’s endorsement does not address a single issue raised by Kilgore in his actual statement. In fact, I have to wonder if Chris even read Kilgore’s statement at all or if he just saw the name “Jerry Kilgore” and freaked out. In the statement, Kilgore talked about Brownlee’s experience in running the US Attorney’s office and how that would translate to the Attorney General’s office. Since Kilgore worked in both, I would have to think that his opinion on that matter is probably a good one. Further, Kilgore talked about Brownlee’s experience as a prosecutor and his relationship with law enforcement as important considerations for a prospective Attorney General. Again, I think Kilgore’s opinion on those matters carries some weight.

Instead of addressing the substance of Kilgore’s statement, Chris instead states that the “Old Virginia Republicanism of Kilgore and Brownlee dive bomb Northern Virginia banking on old ideas for a bygone era that don’t work anymore.” I fail to see how experience, leadership, public safety, illegal immigration, and other issues addressed in this campaign represent “old ideas for a bygone era.” Rather, I think they are the core questions that should be asked of all our candidates for Attorney General.

Finally, I want to close by saying that I agree with Chris that we must fight for every inch of the Commonwealth in the upcoming election. I also agree that the Republican Party as a whole needs to do a much better job in Northern Virginia if we are going to have any success in the future. However, I do not believe that the inclusion of John Brownlee on our statewide ticket would in any way be an “insult” to Northern Virginia or signal that we do not care about the region. The issues that will matter in the Attorney General’s race are issues that affect all Virginians equally, such as gangs, drugs, corruption, fraud, and defending the laws of the Commonwealth. As such, I think it is a mistake to turn this contest into one that pits one region of the state against another. Doing so will only result in division when what we need most is unity.

On that, I hope we can agree.

  • Wow. Great post.

  • I guess I should read his article.

    You have a point. You don’t HAVE to be from NOVA to win the whole thing. Heck, McAuliffe isn’t a real Virginian IMO but, I’m sure he’d get some votes. However, let’s be honest here. If you’re talking about winning in NOVA and moving people to the polls THERE, being in Cuccinelli’s position is a big advantage. The fact is he wins elections there as a Republican and already has substantial contacts and organization to call on because of that.

    Being from the Tidewater/Hampton Roads area, I guess I think we’re pretty important too. I’m thinking McDonnell does. He’s not from NOVA either.

    If you ARE a Virginian, I don’t think goegraphy necessarily rules. If you’re talking about pulling in a larger number of votes specific to NOVA however, Cuccinelli has a huge advantage. Let’s not kid ourselves about that.

  • atomopawn

    I agree with almost everything you’ve said. In particulr, I agree that you don’t need to be either a liberal/moderate or a citizen of Northern Virginia to win statewide office.

    However, I -do- feel that Kilgore’s endorsement is not worth very much. Any politician that loses an election becomes damaged goods for awhile. Kilgore and George Allen are both under that cloud right now.

    No one wants to be associated with a loser. An awful lot of voters will vote for whoever they think is going o win, rather than who they think is the right man for the job. This is especially true in low-profile races, but I think it holds true in this case, too.

    Until the stigma of his loss to Kaine wears off, Kilgore will be more of a burden than a help to most of our candidates. That will happen eventually, but right now he doesn’t have a lot of political capital.

    When a candidate loses, others in his party (I am in this boat) stop trusting his political judgment. Can he pick a winner? If he himself can’t pull off a victory any more, should I trust him to endorse someone who can win more than just the primary?

    I voted for Kilgore and I think he is a terrific man. But his endorsement is the biggest reason right now that I am concerned about Brownlee’s chances in the general election. I think he and Allen can be a lot more help behind the scenes — raising money and trying to rebuild the grassroots infrastructure that our party has been neglecting for some time — than trying to make themselves visible in hope of “making a comeback”.

  • Aaron

    The problem is that some people of there think that NOVA should run the party and every candidate should be from there. In reality we should run the best candidates for the job.

  • The idea that Cuccinelli will somehow have a great advantage in NoVA is complete rubbish. Shannon will strongly out-perform Cuccinelli in NoVA.

  • Very good post BTW, Chris. The other Chris has now called the esteemed Mr. Brownlee “nothing”. Unbelievable coming from him.

  • Despite being Republican, despite protecting the 2nd amendment, despite being for smaller government, Ken Cuccinelli continues to win. Of all places, he wins in ………..NOVA. Somehow he had to beat a democrat in NOVA to get that accomplished.

    I think he can more than handle Shannon.

  • Addison

    Okay – so today was Orthodox Easter and I was invited to a friends house in Vienna for supper. I asked everyone there (52 people) what they thought about Ken Cuccinelli and John Brownlee. Want to guess what the consensus was?

  • Addison

    “I think he can more than handle Shannon.”

    I’m about a 75%-80% lean for Cooch right now.

    That said, if he breaks 25% in Arlington or 40% in Fairfax County I will do a funny little dance on the platform of the Vienna Metro at 8:30 AM on November 4.

  • Get over yourself LI, I said Brownlee was “nothing” in a political sense and you know it. I have no problems with Brownlee its what he represents politically that bothers me so much. Stop trying to make something that isn’t there. Chris O’s criticism is fine because its rooted in what I actually wrote not some made-up slight your using to try and fire people up. Come out from behind your curtain if your going to start pulling this.

    As it is, Chris I appreciate the conversation. Its this very conversation so many in the party are afraid to have, or try too and then get wrapped up in ridiculous red herrings like Mr/Mrs LI tries to pull.

    I just believe that our party has left my region behind and its the reason we are losing. We don’t promote our candidates or our issues, and since 1997 it has been close to a shutout in Northern Virginia for Republicans. Its no secret where we need to fight to win back the state and I’m trying to get people to understand how important it is not to just sweep in here every 3 1/2 years pretending to know what we are going through when the Dems have been working it every day for every year.

    The Democrats have done a marvelous job of uniting the rural and NOVA wings of their party, it should be even easier for us we actually agree politically! I’m just trying to figure out how to fix this and that means actually talking about it rather than brushing it under the rug. To win again we need NOVA and right now we have done a terrible job trying to win here. I want to fix that.

  • Cuccinelli can get elected and re-elected in a single district where he can really work the population. He can’t do that NoVA-wide. He barely won last time against a horrendous idiotic opponent. Barely. I would really love to see some independent polling on Cuccinelli throughout NoVA. I guarantee it won’t be favorable. By a long shot. He does not have a good reputation outside of hardcore conservative circles. this is why I am so dead set against him running on the statewide ticket. I think he’ll get clobberred and bring down the rest of the ticket with him.

    I agree the GOP has left noVA behind in too many instances. But throwing up Cuccinelli and Frederick as great NoVA Republicans that appeal across NoVA is totally wrong.

  • What’s really funny is how the Cuccinelli camp celebrates every single Cuccinelli endorsement, no matter how insignificant, as a major turning point in the campaign. However, when Brownlee lands what is by any standard a major endorsement, the Cuccinelli camp has only this sort of response? You’ll notice Brownlee never tries to tear down Cuccinelli’s endorsements.

    I can’t see why Ken is running a Stalingrad-style campaign like this. Does he really think he is finished when he doesn’t win here?

  • Nick Howard

    I agree with Chris that there are three outstanding candidates for AG this year. I’m a Cuccinelli guy. My biggest problem with Brownlee, who I think is a great guy, is that he blatantly misrepresents the duties of the office for which he is running. I’ve heard him speak on two occasions now and both times he has said that the AG is “the top law enforcement officer.” That is absolutely not true. I’ve talked with Commonwealth’s Attorneys and people who work or have worked in the OAG and they strongly disagree with his assertion. I wish he would be honest in that regard.

    At the YRFV convention I was most surprised by Dave Foster. I shouldn’t say surprised, but he did a good job. I hadn’t seen him in a while, but he was better in the format provided there than he was the other time I had seen him as the sole speaker.

  • “I can’t see why Ken is running a Stalingrad-style campaign like this. Does he really think he is finished when he doesn’t win here?” Zach K.

    Zach, Ken Cuccinelli was asked to comment on his opponents at the fundraiser I attended in Newport News. He ABSOLUTELY refused to trash his opponents. What fervent supporters say is one thing, but if you’re going to imply Ken runs his campaign that way, you need to back that up with evidence.

    Three good candidates. I just think Ken Cuccinelli has a record that shows that he takes his job and our constitutional rights seriouslly.

  • Darrell — Chesapeake

    Boy are you guys going to be p!$$ed when Brownlee gets the nod.

  • Darrell, I would be hugely disappointed if that happend. So far though, Cuccinelli looks to be the leading.

  • Darrell — Chesapeake

    Just curious. Americans For Prosperity lists a Steve Mullins as CFO. Any relation to the Chairman in waiting?

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.